Sandra Stephens, Cohort ’15
It is amazing how much can be experienced during one-day excursions. While studying at Spannocchia, cohort ’15 and a few members of cohort ’14 visited Florence and Siena on our weekend field trips. In Siena, we looked at more amazing and unique architecture - due to the medieval nature of the city. We owe the beauty of Siena to the fact that, after its defeat by Florence, lack of development meant these medieval structures would remain.
The most wonderful part of the Siena trip was not just the remarkable surroundings but also the fact that we could take in so much of the local culture in so little time. Franca Marini, a Sienese and friend of cohort ’14 Liza Papi’s, facilitated this by giving us a tour through the narrow and winding streets of Siena. This afforded us a glimpse into areas that only the local population ever sees. I quickly passed by Marini’s neighbors and various strangers that perhaps I may meet again but only in my dreams.
One such stranger was a street musician who was so taken by his own music that he did not even notice when I stopped to buy his cd. He appeared to be in his own time and space separated from everyone around him. He reminded me of one of the historic statues that, while being so present, also has a story to tell and a past to reveal. I wondered if he would ever open his eyes to see the hustle and bustle around him? I also wondered for whom he thought he was performing and if he even cared?
While the Spannocchia and Siena experience was an intensive academic residency (my multiple all-nighters working on papers and presentations attest to that fact) it was also so much more. I learned by not only burying myself into books but also immersing myself into the local culture. However, besides the local culture, I also discovered more about my fellow classmates. As a group we went for some wine at Marini’s home and then after to a small local restaurant. The trip to Siena was towards the end of our time at Spannocchia so the members of the cohorts knew each other much better. We were no longer a bunch of strangers and got to enjoy the experience with newfound friends. These were people that I could never dream of meeting - from all walks and at various stages in life. Academics, practicing artists, historians, art administrators from all areas of the States, Italy, Brazil and elsewhere; and, unlike the strangers and statues that are frozen in time and my dreams, these are people that will be a part of my new network, some that may become friends for life.